Trojans Wrap Up Fall Practice With Cardinal-Gold Series

Nov. 19, 2008

LOS ANGELES -- The USC baseball team concluded its fall practice season as the Cardinal squad defeated the Gold squad, 2-1, in the 2008 Cardinal-Gold World Series. Head coach Chad Kreuter, entering his third season at USC, talked on Wednesday about his thoughts on fall practice.

'I think we pitched really well this fall,' said Kreuter. 'Guys like Brad Boxberger, Kevin Couture, Anthony Vasquez and Chad Smith pitched well. Daniel Cooper and Philip Urso showed us that they are capable and some other young guys as well. I thought Grant Green struck the ball well throughout the fall and we saw a lot of progress from the freshman infielders, mainly Ricky Oropesa at third base.'

USC lost only two starting pitchers (Tommy Milone and Ryan Cook) from last season so improved depth will aid this year's pitching staff.

'You have to love the depth we have created,' said Kreuter. 'Jeff Grijalva seems to be healthy and threw strikes. Alex Levin is a junior college transfer that we feel will contribute...we just have to figure out where he will be in the mix. Brad Douthit, Danny Coulumbe, Smith and Ben Mount have been really strong on the mound and that's exciting with those guys.'

Kreuter has not settled on a starting rotation and could have several choices when the 2009 season begins in February.

'I would guess it's Boxberger, Vasquez, Couture, Smith and Coulumbe will be in the mix. I would say that Smith and Coulumbe would be the tail end of a rotation as guys who would start in the midweek games and Coulumbe could also be a closer. We have some options. Ricky (Oropesa) has been real strong off the mound and could see some time along with Robert Stock.'

The Trojans will continue to work on its outfield rotation as well as who will start at the infield corner positions.

'Nick Buss was a huge hole to fill, losing out starting center fielder and lead off man in the lineup,' said Kreuter. 'We are still searching for guys. We think Mike O'Neill, Vinnie St. John, Greg Zebrack and Anthony Vasquez are battling for the spots in the outfield. We are not sure if Anthony will start in center because he also can see action at first base. We are hoping freshman Beau Brett or Mac Sullivan can start at first, along with Darren Gemoll being an option. Oropesa and Billy Pinkerton are battling for the spot at third and right now at second, it looks like Hector Rabago and Joe De Pinto. Ryan Bast and Shane Boras are options at second for us.'

Rabago might be the surprise of the camp, seeing a lot of action at catcher. He has impressed the coaches to the point where he might start a number of games behind the plate, especially when Stock is pitching.

'One of the things I want to do as a coach is teach players multiple positions, especially to help them get to the next level,' said Kreuter. 'Hector is a guy that we saw he had the capability to catch as a freshman. I've kept at him, bugging him about playing there to enhance his status and really to help us out if Stock became a weekend starter. When we had some injuries in the fall, it was a no-brainer to put him back there full-time. He is throwing a ball to second base in the 1.85 mark and that's below the major league average.'

Starting shortstop Grant Green will begin the season as a possible top-five overall selection in the June major league baseball draft and Kreuter is hopeful that Green will not hit the roadbumps that typically happen to junior players who are slotted to be picked high in the draft.

'I went through it as a junior where you put pressure on yourself and try to do too much,' said Kreuter. 'Mentally, it's about preparing those guys to get used to having scouts in the stands all the time. You keep on them mentally and not let them try to do too much. I feel the same thing with Boxberger and Stock. They have to have fun, go out and play and not succumb to self-inflicted pressure.'

The Trojan coaching staff is most impressed with the team chemistry.

'This is the hardest-working club since I have been here,' said Kreuter. 'It shows with the team chemistry. All these guys are getting along very well.'

USC opens the 2009 season on Friday (Feb. 20) against Long Beach State at Dedeaux Field.

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